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Clayton to assess community funding needs

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

As part of an annual application to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Clayton County is seeking input from citizens to determine the community's greatest needs.

The Clayton County Housing and Community Development Program will solicit public comment on those needs, from 7 to 8 p.m., this evening, at the Clayton County Administration Building, at 112 Smith St., Jonesboro.

Each year, according to Clayton County Housing and Community Development Program Director Lance Crawford, the county is required to submit an "annual action plan," illustrating to HUD where it plans to spend its federal funding. The plan, he said, is used by HUD to determine how much the county receives annually in Community Development Block Grant, HOME Investment Partnerships Program, and Emergency Shelter Grants Program funds.

Crawford said the needs-assessment process will help the county determine which nonprofit and quasi-governmental agencies are given funding preference in the annual action plan for the 2010 fiscal year, which will be submitted to the Clayton County Board of Commissioners for approval in May of next year.

"The forum [today] is to generate interest about what the housing needs are in the community, what the non-housing needs are, and to also take comments on homelessness," Crawford said. The Community Development, HOME and Emergency Shelter Grant funds are "a very flexible funding source. Uncle Sam is not telling you where you have to spend the money. They are saying, 'tell us what the greatest needs are and we'll give you the money to pay for it' ... But we just don't get this money. We have to prepare a plan. We have to submit this to HUD, and it has to be reasonable, and they can start the process of getting that money," he said.

In fiscal year 2009, according to Crawford, the county received $2.08 million in Community Development Block Grant funds, $1.01 million in HOME funds, and $91,000 in Emergency Shelter Grants Program funds, which were given to various nonprofits and quasi-governmental agencies to eliminate blight and help low- to moderate-income families. He said the county expects to receive similar funding amounts in the next fiscal year, and today's comments will help the Board of Commissioners determine which programs require the most funding, prior to submitting the application to HUD.

The county must submit its HUD funding application by May 15, Crawford said.

"The principle requirement of this program is that the programs [selected for funding] must help low- to moderate-income people, or help eliminate slums or blight," Crawford said. "We're aiming at doing programs for families of four making $57,000 or less."

He said some of the things that can be funded include public facilities, public services, streets, storm sewers, sanitary sewers, and nonprofits in need of facilities.

The Clayton Collaborative Authority is also circulating an online survey ( http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=00CAWPE7ushSUd1V5O59bg_3d_3d), in which citizens can share their HUD funding desires with the Clayton County Housing and Community Development Program.

The Clayton Collaborative Authority's John Brinson said the survey, in addition to public participation at the needs-assessment meeting, will allow the county to "fine tune" its resources.

"Too many of the plans that are made for people don't include the people who need the services or supply the services," Brinson said. "This allows us a chance to say, 'this is where we really need to move those funds.' It can't do anything but help the county."

According Crawford, nonprofits and other agencies will have until Dec. 18 to submit applications to the Clayton County Housing and Community Development Program office for fiscal 2010 HUD funding. Applications can be downloaded from the county's web site (www.co.clayton.ga.us) or picked up at the Clayton County Housing and Community Development Program office, located at 1671 Adamson Parkway, Suite 101 in Morrow.

For more information, contact Kelly Williams at (404) 684-7031.